Ender’s Game Blu-ray Review

The unremarkable 2013 adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s sci-fi novel “Enders Game” is now being released on DVD and if you’re looking for something wholly un-stimulating though visually stunning, it’s well worth the watch. That’s not to say the story isn’t interesting: how can a very serious teen version of Starship Troopers, complete with an evil bug planet and some very silly humans, not be an absolute blinder, especially given the chunky 1985 novel for inspiration…. Let the movie show you how.

Asa Butterfield, a clear talent given his work in the heart-breaking Boy in Striped Pyjamas, is given very little to work with as the title’s Ender Wiggin, who goes through a plethora of teenage turmoil in the film devoid of any particular focus, resulting in the viewer finding it very hard to care about any of them. Everything is mentioned once or twice to get the point across – a spark of sibling rivalry, a hint of a love interest, a peppering of bullying and a niggle of political controversy – but then the hands are washed of it so the plot can speed merrily along, ramming a good, long book into a film that drags on and on with some splendid visual effects. The slight relief from it all comes with the touches of sincerity from Viola Davis.

Ender is just what the planet needs to take out that pesky bug planet that threatens to wipe out the Earth should the ‘Buggers’ attack as ferociously as they seem to in some ominous historical footage. He’s kicking everyone’s butt at  the Training School’s simulated war-games even though he’s a “third” – a rare third born on the Earth with a two child only law – and kicking literal butt too. This is both frowned upon and admired as he is promoted to the Battle School far out in Space where he floats around a room with a bunch of other kids trying to shoot each other with freeze rays, to, you know, prep for war. He also deals with a kid with tremendous short man syndrome and the flirtations of a girl a bit too old for him. Suddenly he’s Captain of his team and suddenly again his team is running the battleship drones and killing all the Buggers. I say suddenly as each chapter feels like it’s been squidged down to a page, with Harrison Ford’s oh-so-serious Colonel Graff stating that Ender is “The One” and detailing each step that will take him there just before he achieves it. There are no surprises until the end when a twist is slipped in, and, boy, is it underwhelming.

The nearly 30 year old book has won many an award for best novel, and after sitting through the film, I certainly feel like I want to read it, to replace the 2-dimensional entities with fleshed-out characters and give the story some believability. I want to care about incredibly clever Ender but this film fails to ignite even a flutter of endearment, especially as the awe of the sometimes tremendous visual effects is somewhat lost on the small screen. Shame, really.

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One Response

  1. Derek Taylor

    I agree with you for the most part. This movie was so close to being great and failed. One thing, the armies at the Battle School were too small. In the book there was a hundred in each army, not ten or so. Ender should’ve been alone at the Command School and the kids should’ve looked tired and worn out.

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